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Thursday, 29 November 2018

Interview with J.D. Estrada -Author and Poet

I've known J.D. Estrada for a few years who I have had the pleasure of knowing first as a fellow writer and now a dear friend who is very much like family to me. He's funny, quick with wit, a great storyteller, a big heart who cares for others and loves his family and friends. Become acquainted with this very talented writer J.D. and make sure you check out his books.

Introducing J.D. 

J.D. Estrada bio-
Hey there, this is your friendly neighborhood JD Estrada. I’m a Puerto Rican indie author who is now based in Atlanta because home shall always be my Caribbean Island. I’m a multi-genre author, would-be renaissance geek, and advocate of creative kindness. I like tea, socks, video games, and am also known as #00Bananas (look it up if you’re curious, but expect something silly when you do). 

What do you love about your life right now?

What a curious question. I think I like that whatever success I have has been through hard work and dedication, that I’ve never gotten a handout or a free ride, and that slowly but surely, I can make a difference.

How long have you been writing?

As a hobby, I’ve been writing since I was a kid, though plenty more when I was a teen. I’ve published six poetry collections because to me poetry has always helped me heal and make sense of my life and the world I live in. My first published book was in 2013, but before that, I did win a couple of prizes in college for short stories and poetry. I also was part of a rag-tag group of people who wrote anonymously in a blog for close to a decade, but that’s as much as I can say about that.

Tell me about your newest book Given To Fly like where did you find inspiration to write it and how long it took to write it.

Ah, Given to Fly is such a special book for me. The inspiration came from several sources. Firstly, my wife gave a wonderful gift almost 10 years ago. She asked me what image meant a lot to me and without batting an eye I told her the picture on the single for Pearl Jam’s “Given to Fly”. A couple of months after that question and she surprised me with a hardcover notebook with hard case with that image and my name on it. It’s one of the most amazing gifts I’ve ever received in my life so the stakes were high in regards to what the book would be about. Then a while after we had our first trip as a couple to Disney/Orlando. We went to Epcot Center and got on Soarin’, which has become one of our favorite rides ever. As we were immersed in beautiful visuals, music, and aromas during the flight simulator, one idea led to another and another and by the end of that 2 ½ minute ride, I knew what the story would be about: a boy who dreams about flying. It’s taken me all this time to finally write the book and the inspirations come from all over the place. Influences of Coraline, Charlotte’s Web, Harry Potter, Easter Eggs of Pearl Jam, Elbow, The Who, Tori Amos, nods to my favorite comics growing up which were from Hong Kong, nods to the lead singer of Days of the New, whom I hope can one day kick his drug habit and stay clean and creatively adventurous, nods to video games and even some of my books, and beyond. Heck, there’s even a library pillaging bookworm that’s based on Noam Chomsky. All in all, I’d say the plotting took me about 4 months and full one writing and editing another 4-5 month, but it happened in bursts throughout the years as I finished several other projects and hunted down someone who could nail the cover.

As a writer myself, I’ve struggled with writers’ block. Do you and how do you overcome it?

Writer’s block is luckily not something I get hit with much if at all and it’s all down to working on several projects at the same time. I’m sure that genetically I share some % of DNA with octopi because I can multi-task that way. At any given time, there are 3-6 projects running at the same time and in different stages of development. Now that I’ve finished Given to Fly, I’m focused on two main projects, Book 3 in the Human Cycle and a collaboration I’m doing with a great friend from the UK. I write in my blog, write music, and always strive to have something creative going along and to lean into the projects that most call out to me. Time is not something I have a whole ton of so when I do get time, trust me that I work hard to make it count. But reading different things, writing different types of projects, and other things help me to always stay in flow as much as possible. I think every block happens for a different reason and to me, I have projects I full on plan and others where I’m a bonafide pantser. I also like to mix things up and always try different things with my writing rather than finding my perfect method because part of the fun for me is discovering more of who I am through my projects. Things you can do to overcome it is to work on other things that flow easily and allow your brain to relax. We sometimes get so caught up and wound up that we forget to enjoy the process and I think that’s why I rarely get blocks because I love the various ways I can weave a story.

Where do you go to write your books like a coffee shop or home office and do you have a particular place that inspires you? 

For me, writing is more about my mood and the moment rather than a particular place. I’ve written plenty of times in food courts, restaurants of all types, coffee, shops, and even the bathtub. I think it’s all about picking up the notebook when inspiration strikes and running with it. I’ve known to take a notebook into a bathroom stall during work hours only because I was the only male who worked in a department with 14 other coworkers and I needed some space to write :) I can say that I’m particularly fond of writing during flights and I’ll NEVER buy in-flight WiFi. I also don’t mind long waits at the doctor because I always carry a notebook with me.

Who’s your favorite author and book?

 Favorite author has to be Neil Gaiman although the more I read Terry Pratchett the harder it is to answer this question. As for favorite books, to me, it’s a tie between two series: Harry Potter and the Sandman. In regards to fantasy fiction, these two books have hit the deepest and mean the most to me. Harry Potter arrived in my life at a time where I sorely needed some magic and the Sandman is a series that is as creatively amazing as anything I’ve read. Part of my goals in life is to write something both Joan (JK Rowling) and Neil (Gaiman) could enjoy. They have my respect and love for who they are as humans AND writers.

 Any advice you can offer for new writers?

Write for you, not the market. The market will change and will always change. You are stuck with you for the rest of your life and the more fun you have, the better off you’ll be. Be a ball busting editor, be brutally honest about what works and what doesn’t work, read everything, learn something new every day, taste new foods and dance outside your comfort zone. Also, focus on finding YOUR voice. Don’t be the next best [INSERT NAME OF AUTHOR]. Be the best you. Be uncompromisingly you. Be selfishly you. And then share it with others.

 What advice do you wish you knew before you started writing?

Transcribe as you write. Lol. My first manuscript was probably over 180K words long… and I began transcribing when I finished it… and trust me, that wasn’t fun lol. Also, save your work in several places. Jump drives die, computers get fried, and life happens. 

Tell me three fun facts about you.

I began 00 Bananas in a former job to make co-workers laugh.

I’ve tried to be in 3 bands… maybe 4th time will be the charm? Hey, one can dream.

If I could have any corporate job, I’d work in R&D for a candy factory.

In one word describe yourself.



His newest novel Given To Fly at Amazon 

Please support his writing journey and purchase some of his books below:
Find his books on Amazon at this link: JDBook
Follow his social media links below as well as his website, YouTube, and Goodreads. 

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Interview with Christie Stratos

My latest interview is with Christie Stratos who is an award-winning author and poet, and she has a degree in English Literature. She loves to read all genres of books and in her free time enjoys baking and cooking. Find out who inspired her to write and what advice she offers to new writers. 

What do you love about your life right now?

I recently left my full-time project management job to run my editing business full-time and write, and I can’t get over what a difference it makes to do what you love 24/7. My job doesn’t feel like work, and that’s something I haven’t experienced until now.

How many books have you written?

Two so far and many short stories. The two books are in the Dark Victoriana Collection—Anatomy of a Darkened Heart and Brotherhood of Secrets—and there are many more to come from this collection. I also just released a standalone horror short story called “The Subtlety of Terror,” and my works are in a number of anthologies and literary journals. You can also find a couple of free short stories on Wattpad.

Picture from her Facebook of her books

Was there anybody or a book that inspired you to write?

I have always been a writer ever since I was capable of writing. I started with poetry, moved into novels, and then finally got into short stories. I would say the biggest inspiration for me to really take writing seriously was both Julius Caesar and Hamlet. They introduced me to succinct, deep psychological writing where things aren’t just handed over to the reader. I not only devoured them when I read them, but I knew that I wanted to write and incorporate what I felt was so great about them.

Writer Inspiration for Christie
Pic from Pinterest 

What are the joys and challenges of writing for you?

I love spilling creativity onto the page and then fixing it up to become something complex and suspenseful. I enjoy coming up with new ideas that I haven’t seen written before and making them come to life. The hardest part is when I can’t decide which way a scene should go, and I end up having to write it a couple of times to see which option is best…and then sometimes I change my mind a couple of times! I’d say that’s the least fun part for me—when I’m not sure which way to go.

Do you have a favorite book so far that you’ve written?

That’s such a hard question! I like both of my books for different reasons. The evolution of my main character, Abigail Whitestone, is what I love most about Anatomy of a Darkened Heart—watching her grow, learn, and develop into a person the reader comes to dislike and yet sympathize with is something I quite enjoyed doing. In Brotherhood of Secrets, which may be my favorite of the two by a narrow margin, I wrote my favorite character of everything I’ve ever written: Jude Wickes. He is a severely damaged person who truly can’t tell right from wrong anymore, and Mr. Locke takes advantage of this in the worst ways. As I wrote him, I loved him, and even now, a year after publication, he is my most favorite.

Tell me a little bit about The Writer’s Edge the show you host.

The Writer’s Edge is a twice-monthly show on YouTube with both discussion panels and one-on-one interviews, all live-streamed. You can bring your questions to the chat, meet new friends, contact the participants afterward, and learn a lot about the writing and publishing industry. We discuss everything from holiday-themed writing and marketing to getting the most out of your time at a writing conference, from indie vs. traditional publishing with very experienced authors to getting your work published in magazines and journals. As the host of the show, I’m constantly learning from my guests, which is a wonderful bonus!

On your IG account, you describe yourself as a book hoarder, how many books do you think you have?

I have 160 books in one bookcase—the small one. And then there’s a floor-to-ceiling one and another one of those… Let’s leave it at a ton. 

In one word describe yourself.


Are you working on any new books or projects?

I’m working on book three of the Dark Victoriana Collection, which I’ll make huge headway on during NaNoWriMo. I have a WIP halfway done which has the working title “Greed”, and a horror anthology in the works to release this year. I probably have as many WIPs as I have books!

When you're not busy working your business, what are some of your hobbies and interests?

I love cooking and baking, coming up with new recipes on my own. It’s just another form of creativity! And of course, reading all different genres. I actually do what used to be my hobbies and interests for a living now—read, write, and edit all day. So I’m in heaven!

What have you found to be the best place for you to write?

At home or at a library are my two favorites. I love either burying myself somewhere deep in the books and writing or finding a section of books I like to read and writing from there. I can write anywhere, but being around books or being where all my notebooks and research books are, those are my favorite spots.

Do you use any particular software like Scrivener?

I do use Scrivener and I love it! I use Word for short stories, but for novels, I skip around to scenes all over the book, and it got hard for me to organize my Word document. Even using multiple Word documents didn’t work out for me. I tried Scrivener and it solved all my problems!

Any advice you would like to share to a new writer?

Write what you want, write what you want to read, create something new, and believe that there are new experiences in books, no matter what anyone says.

Advice to new writers by Christie

Tell me three fun facts about you.

1.    I was originally going to be a music teacher and I played French Horn professionally.
2.    I must have a different journal for every major WIP and by genre for short stories. I can’t get my ideas down without the right ones!
3.    I love Victorian cameos and collect them. I have some that are framed, some that are in their natural state, and some totally unique ones! My Victorian jewelry has helped me write my Victorian novels.

I share inspirational and motivational quotes with my readers, do you have one you can share?

“Your doubts create mountains. Your actions move them.” – Mel Robbins
When you feel your doubts creeping up—self-doubt, doubts about whether you’re good enough, even doubts about whether you’re headed in the right direction in your life—re-read this quote. It makes all the difference between wallowing and taking action.

Follow Christie on social media and check-out her website

Facebook      Patreon 
Twitter          Instagram

Monday, 22 October 2018

A Stylish Chat with Kelvin and Lauren Burford of Simply Wynn Custom Clothiers

Lauren and Kelvin Burford of Atlanta are taking on the fashion industry in the Hollywood of the South, and they have a unique, fun, and creative approach with their Simply Wynn Custom Clothiers. They can style you from head to toe along with weekenders and backpacks so you're traveling in style as well. Learn about more about their business as well as the challenges and joys of owning one. 

What do you and Kelvin love about your life right now?

Kelvin-Since retiring from the military, I have loved my overall freedom. I can come and go as I please, travel when I want to. 

Lauren- I love being able to be a wife and mother without the demands of the military. Although I enjoyed my career, my duties often took me away from my family.

Which one of you wanted to start Simply Wynn? Did you both have an interest?

Lauren- Ever since I was a young girl, I would design clothes and dream of one day owning a boutique called Mary Jane’s after my great-grandmother. She was the original Coco Chanel! I was known for my fashion-sense and enjoyed and still do, making others look their best. I joined the Air Force and put my dreams on hold. Once I finished my military career, I had the opportunity to learn the custom clothing business from my mentor.

Kelvin- Although I grew up fond of wearing suits, it never crossed my mind that I would have my own line of clothing. I used to wear suits regularly in high school just because I wanted to feel like a professional and I liked to look good.

Kelvin & Lauren- Together we discussed creating our own brand once we understood how the business worked.

When did you create Simply Wynn?

Kelvin & Lauren- We created Simply Wynn August 2016.

I notice you honor veterans by giving a discount to them. As you both have mentioned that you served in the military, which branch did you serve in?

Kelvin & Lauren- We both served in the U. S. Air Force.

Thank you for your service. By serving in the military, did it prepare you for your business?

Kelvin & Lauren- Thank you!

Kelvin- The military taught me how to work well under pressure. It taught me to maintain high standards, professionalism, and I display that in my business. The Air Force paid for my degree in Business Entrepreneurship.

Lauren- My first job in the Air Force was in a mental health clinic. Working there taught me more about life, understanding the mind, and how to work with people than any other job I have ever had. The military also paid for my education so no complaints there. 

Is it hard to put yourself out there with a fashion business? What have been the challenges?

Kelvin & Lauren- It is hard putting yourself out there in the fashion business when what is considered fashion today is skin-tight, revealing, and extremely flashy. Call us old-fashion but there is still stylish clothing that can accent your shape or features without revealing everything.  

Lauren- The challenge from my perspective has been getting customers to trust your brand as a start-up business.

Kelvin-Also, knowing the who’s who in the business and making the right contacts without being taken advantage of. That is what I consider to be the biggest challenge.

What are some of the joys?

Kelvin- I love the travel and meeting new people. I like the transformation of seeing the client when we first consult with them and the end-product. I really enjoy those clients who have never owned or worn a suit and seeing the confidence that I helped instill in them by designing a suit. They seem to walk a little taller and hold their heads higher.

Lauren- I love seeing customers look at themselves in the mirror with an air of confidence because we designed a look just for them. I have met actors and models in the industry who are down to earth and who desire to be the best representation of your brand. My husband and I work well together. We have forged genuine relationships with some of them. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and it works for us.

Was there anybody in the fashion industry or a company that inspired you to create it?

Kelvin-No, no one in the fashion industry or a specific company inspired me to create it however, our mentor Clarence Jones of CJ Custom Clothiers encourages and inspires me. I watch his determination and professional work ethic and it is worthy of emulating.

Lauren-There was no company or person in the fashion industry that inspired us to create Simply Wynn. My inspiration came from my grandmother. My grandmother inspires all who come around her because she is such a peaceful spirit.

With your company, a client can custom design their own clothes and your company makes it? Is that how it works?

Kelvin-We specialize in custom suiting, tuxedos, overcoats, and shirting. We do a consultation and design each feature of the aforementioned with the client. He or she selects their fabric and accessories and our team of tailors constructs it.

Lauren- We also offer ready to wear pieces for women. We recently teamed up with a seamstress that can bring our design ideas to life for women. Whether it is a dress or a gown, we have the resources to make the design happen.

Who are your biggest supporters?

Lauren- Our family members are our biggest supporters. Simply Wynn is named after my grandmother, Ernestine Wynn Patrick and she is overjoyed knowing that her legacy will continue.

Kelvin- I would have to agree, my mother and mother-in-law have been our biggest supporters. Yasin Abdul, model/actor and Clarence Jones (C.J.) have been there since day one.
Yasin Abdul and Vernice Grigsby modeling Simply Wynn Custom Clothiers.
Photograph by Ralph E. Williams of e37 Photography 

 I read a quote on Pinterest that says, “Fashion is what you buy, style is what you do with it.” Do you agree?

Kelvin- I agree. Growing up I was not able to afford name-brand clothes however with what I had I wore it well. I got “Best-Dressed” in high school and people couldn’t believe what my outfit cost from head to toe. It’s not what you wear, it’s how you wear it.
Lauren- I couldn’t agree with the quote more. You can put the same blouse on two different women. Woman number one may add a necklace, make up her face with complimenting colors, and even style her hair based on the blouse. Woman number two may simply wear the blouse without giving any thought to the garment and without making it her own. You’re born with style; either you have it, or you don’t.

Anybody in the fashion industry that either of you looks up to?

Kelvin- I look up to Damon John because like us he started his clothing line out of his home. Like him, he saw a product that was over-priced and went home to recreate the product and sold it for less. I have found some custom suiting to be overpriced. Not being able to afford custom suits in my younger years, I feel as though every client should be able to afford custom clothing.

Lauren-I do like the character Whitley Gilbert from the 90s show A Different World. Although Jasmine Guy was playing a character, she was always stylish and feminine in her role. Also, I am a huge fan of Calvin Klein and Coco Chanel. I like classic and chic! These influences inspire me to keep our products classy and tasteful.
Another individual who did not start out in the fashion industry but is a style influencer is former First Lady Michelle Obama. She is a community servant at heart and does it with such style and grace.

Coco Chanel once said “Fashion has two purposes: comfort and love. Beauty comes when fashion succeeds.”  Do you agree with Coco?

Kelvin- I agree and disagree. I agree with fashion providing comfort and love however it only accentuates a person’s natural beauty. What fashion does is boosts the person’s confidence which exudes outwardly. Beauty doesn’t come when fashion succeeds, it comes when they are centered mentally and spiritually.

Lauren- This is another quote I agree with. When people look good they feel good and their beauty radiates from within. We have another business Inside Out Life Coaching that is still under development. It is our belief that regardless of what we design and style you in, the confidence only lasts temporarily. Inside Out is designed to help cultivate the beauty from within so that when you wear any garment not necessarily Simply Wynn’s, your confidence lasts because you have achieved mental and spiritual soundness.

Finally, what are a few things you would like future clients to know about Simply Wynn Custom Clothiers?

Kelvin & Lauren- We want future customers to know that Simply Wynn is all about its customers. We strive to make our clients feel comfortable, confident, and that they’ve become a part of our family. When we do consultations, we try to familiarize ourselves with our customers. We care about the things that impact them such and make it a point to remember and celebrate those special things in their lives. Without clients, there is no Simply Wynn.
Follow them on social media and check out their website for more information.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Interview with Author Ben Longoria of Texas

My latest interview is with Ben Longoria, of San Antonio, Texas who is an author, father, singer, and Army Veteran. When he's not writing, he enjoys reading, cycling, anything outdoors, traveling, attending rock concerts, and playing cards. Learn more about him and his books as well as his future plans. Guess who is his favorite author? You'll have read to find out.

What do you love about your life right now?

I made a lot of mistakes in my twenties and I think now, in my thirties, that wisdom has really come in hand. I have an optimistic outlook on my future now in comparison to my cynical angry youth. So that’s made me particular about the company I keep and the choices I make. I’m very lucky to be surrounded by loving friends and family. And with my writing taking off I’ve been given the chance to meet new people, creative types like myself, and share the things we love to make. Really all of this is possible because I have a fantastic girlfriend and intelligent children who’ve given me a reason to aim for success.

As an author of three books, what was the hardest part of writing and having your book published?

The publishing isn’t hard. I’ve really nailed down the process. It can be menial but really the hardest part of writing is the writing. Like anyone in the creative field, I’m constantly burdened by doubt. Reading has had a negative side effect in that it’s made me more self-aware of my own writing. You read something so utterly good and masterful and start to think you’re a hack wasting your time. So I sit at my computer wondering if this is even worth it all. I love it, I’ll do it until I die, but those fears start to make you second-guess that magic voice in your head trying to pour this story onto the page. The only way you can get through that hurdle is to trust that voice and keep going.

Which one was your favorite to write?

This is hard. While The Hound of Endtown is special because it was so successful and it was my first printed book, I loved writing Hello Defiant- the follow-up to The Hound of Endtown. This one idea sparked and suddenly I had this whole examination of life in the aftermath of the apocalypse. As I was writing it, it felt like a big story. This was something beyond Endtown and my short stories. And when it was done I felt like a real writer. I managed to write a novel and a sequel to something everyone loved. Writing follow-ups can be difficult and many can flop but the reaction has been great and several readers say it’s my best work so far so I think I was able to achieve what I wanted. I love that story so much.

Was there anybody particular that inspired you to write?

I grew up in a house that promoted reading. My parents were religious, so Bible study was a routine part of life. Our house was also packed with books. My father and mother both read often. I recall dinners filled with conversation revolving around something they recently read. My mother was always interested in a writing career, like journalism. So my love for the written word sort of came naturally in that environment. It wasn’t until I received some accolades from my professor that writing became a real career option and not just a hobby.

Where do you find is the best place to write?

I really love writing so anywhere is fine with me. I’ve written in all sorts of places. In the Army, I’d write in my green waterproof journal inside a Humvee or lying on a cot. Even then I loved it. I wrote a lot of interesting stuff back then. However, the one place that really gets me in the zone is the library. Even as a kid surrounded by all those books, I just had to write. I’d read a few books and couldn’t resist. With all that inspiration it’s impossible for me not to become lost in my head. Libraries are like my church.

Any software you would recommend to someone who wants to write a book and any other advice you could offer?

I’m not hip with writing software. I use my five-year-old MacBook with Libre Office because I don’t have Microsoft Word. I also still rely on handwritten notes. I’m a bit of a Luddite with those things, but I’m trying to catch up. Of course, I’ve never had the desire to use a typewriter so I still like the technology I do use.

Who is your favorite author and book?

At first, this seems like a hard question. I love so many writers and books that feels impossible to pick just one. However, I will gladly pick the writer that came to mind firsthand that writer is Stephen King. Stephen King is part of my identity as an American. He’s so fully a part of my growing up- reading Cujo in middle school, watching It, and falling in love with The Dark Tower while serving in the Army- that it’s hard to imagine a life without his work. He makes reading cool. He’s a literary rock star. People that don’t normally read, read King. My kids know who he is. If we’re going to go with my favorite “book” I won’t count The Dark Tower since I can’t pick just one. So cutting out The Dark Tower series I’d have to say The Stand is my favorite Stephen King book. I love apocalyptic tales and this one is so colossal that after reading it I was shocked how much of a story he packed into that dictionary-sized novel.

Picture from Pinterest 

Tell me three fun facts about you.

1. I am really into Turok. I love the games, comics, toys, etc. I sleep with the game soundtrack sometimes (love the death marshes) and even have a Primagen action figure
In my car with me.
2. I hate inanimate objects. If there’s a hell I imagine it being filled with clothes hangers. I have to untangle, corners I’m constantly bumping into, headphone cords that you can never unknot.
3. I love tacos. And when I say tacos I mean specifically, Tex Mex breakfast tacos- bean and cheese, potato and egg, chorizo and egg, bacon and egg, bean and chorizo, and so on.

In one word, describe yourself.


I share inspirational and motivational quotes with my readers; do you have one you can share?

I’ll give you the one I have tattooed on my arm “Life is fleeting.” That’s my philosophy. I’ve been in plenty of near-death experiences so I’m very aware this whole thing is going to end one day. I see it there on my arm, and it reminds me to make what I’m doing matter. I’m lucky to have this life so I can’t waste it.

Are you working on any new books at this time?

Oh, I have so much I’m working on. Right now I have eight books skeleton plotted, Right now I have eight books skeleton plotted, bare-bones sort of stuff. I’m currently writing the second volume of short horror stories called The Forest Around the Hill. That’s almost done so I’ll be writing The Hermit soon, the last of the Endtown books. In that time I’m also editing a short story collection for another writer and publishing an anthology of stories and poems. And I love doing all of it.

Where can your books be found to purchase?

You can find them all over the place. Most folks use Amazon and Barnes and Nobles’ online store. Wal-Mart carries them on their online store. You can also visit my website

Searosspub.com and go to the store page that has the links to Amazon. For any readers in San Antonio, The Twig Bookstore also carries copies in store (sometimes signed).

Please follow Ben on his social media:

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